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Fields of dreams bring hope of farming success

By Zhu Lixin ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-04-14 07:12:02

"According to our estimates we envisage an approximate investment of around $240 million, including infrastructure and machinery, on the project," He says, adding that the company started to break even from last year, without disclosing earnings or investment numbers.

Pointing to the vast soybean, wheat and maize fields behind him, He says the harvested grain will be sold in the local markets so that it can benefit the local communities.

"Through this project we want to help Zimbabwe achieve self-sufficiency in grain output," says the 46-year native of Hefei, Anhui province. Before coming to Zimbabwe, He was a senior engineer with the APSFG in Hefei.

Like several other people before him, he was initially a bit apprehensive when he was posted to Africa. "There were the usual fears such as going to a new place, meeting new people, new customs etc. But I was pleasantly surprised and bowled over by the warm and friendly nature of Zimbabweans," He says.

Cheng Jun, deputy general manager of APSFG and the chairman of Wanjin, says that the Chinese company's experience over the past 50 years has helped it achieve several advances in agriculture.

According to Chen, APSFG has about 67,000 hectares of land under cultivation in Anhui province along with 15 agricultural R&D institutes. It employs around 27,100 people, of whom 2,300 are highly qualified agricultural experts and technicians.

"Anhui Provincial State Farms Group is a trusted partner with great strength", the former Zimbabwean defense minister Emmerson Mnangagwa said in 2011.

"Agricultural development requires long-term planning and sustainable practices. We do not expect our investment in Zimbabwe to yield immediate returns," Cheng says.

The real focus for the Chinese company, Cheng says, is technology transfer and skills-enhancement, factors critical to the long-term success of agriculture in Zimbabwe.

"Our primary task is to train as many local agricultural technicians as possible, because science and technology hold the key to better yields."

During the past four years, the Chinese company has sent four batches of agricultural experts and technicians to the African country, bringing the number of trained local employees to more than 1,000 person-times, a measurement that combines the number of persons and their time contribution.

The joint venture has more than 800 local employees and 16 from China. Company officials say they plan to add more agriculture-related jobs in the future.

The Chinhoyi project is unique in that it shares its modern management techniques and practices with the surrounding farm-owners. "Our task is to boost the overall crop yields with the help of technology," He says.

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